Three Words That Trip Theologians :: By Gene Lawley

Foreknowledge, World, and Whosoever – 3 Words That Trip Theologians
This is an article that demands thoughtful and objective consideration in light of the whole counsel of God. Basic to it is the proverb that says, “And knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10b).

The three words are: World, Whosoever, and Foreknowledge. They have to do with the intricate details of how salvation is accomplished for and in mankind. Three other words are also in that context of salvation’s determination. They are: Chosen, Election and Predestination. The latter’s meaning is closely related to the description in Psalm 139:13-16 where God, at a person’s conception, sees the person looking forward when as yet the person has not arrived there.

When the Scriptures say, “According to the foreknowledge of God…,” certain things are evident. It does not mean that His foreknowledge caused any result named. The definition of “foreknowledge” does not specifically allow anything except a view of what is ahead in time. Thus Peter writes his first epistle to the “elect, according to the foreknowledge of God” (1 Peter 1:2). For example, also, and in clearly less than the infinite terms in which God speaks, the weatherman predicts with the foreknowledge offered by his basic determination of what the weather will be tomorrow—the forecast for that day. That forecast, however, does not determine what will actually happen in tomorrow’s weather patterns.

The word “world” used in the Scriptures has several meanings; and the context is the key to its meaning, generally. “World” can mean the physical globe of natural substance, or it can mean the world of people. The context reveals its use, as in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Notice that “whosoever” identifies just what or whom God loved. People, it is, and also, it defines how much of the world He loves, not just a selective number.

That is, it does not say that God only loves those who believe in Him, as some would maintain. The foundational issue here is that God loves all persons of the world so that Christ died for all of them. Another verse that says this truth more plainly is 1 Timothy 4:10:

“For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.”

Some who want to promote the theory that God only loves and cares for the saved have to change this verse to read as, “…Who is the Savior of all men [who believe], especially those who believe!” How ridiculous can one become when he manipulates the simple meaning of the Scriptures. Twisting the Scriptures to fit a preconceived theory always gets the false prophet in trouble. The same thoughtless manipulation of the Word occurs when they want to convince others that God only loves those who believe, as in John 3:16 discussed above, by reading it this way: “For God so loved the world [of believers] that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes on Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

One lettered theologian quotes from Jesus’ prayer in John 17 to maintain the false theory that God and Jesus do not love or care for the world of lost people: “… I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours” (John 17:9b). It seems clearly that He is pointedly praying for those disciples whom God has given Him for the work they are to do as witnesses. He is not praying for their salvation, as He would not be praying for the world as His disciples in this context. Further on, even so, He prays this:

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word” (John 17:20). So Jesus does pray for the lost world!  You see, again, how some would go to thoughtless manipulations of the Word for support for their preconceived ideas. That is not rightly dividing the Word of Truth!

A couple of other verses say plainly that His death was not limited to be for only those who would believe:

1 Timothy 2:5-6a – “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all….”

1 John 2:2 – “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

Once, in a phone conversation, a friend and brother in Christ now with the Lord assured me that Jesus did not die for all men, but only for those who believe, thus there is “no wasted blood.” Honestly, I was overwhelmed, for I had never encountered that theory before. The Scriptures above seem to say clearly otherwise, that Christ did die for all men, just as Adam brought all men into death. Romans 5:18 tells us that truth:

“Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.” 

You will note, however, that the provision of the death of Christ is not automatic righteousness to all, as “universal salvation,” but a free gift of righteousness is provided. Thus, a gift must be accepted for its effect to be validated. The key word is “believe” and the constant demand throughout the Word of God.

He is the Savior of all men, but all men are not saved. Only those who believe are saved, just as the New Testament states over and over, again and again. There is no intent in this Scripture or in the whole counsel of God that establishes a doctrine of “universal salvation,” that “God loves everybody, so everybody is saved.” In that same thought pattern, 2 Peter 3:9 says, “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

“Whosoever,” or “whoever,” are words that make no distinction of who is included by their very definition.  It is in John 3:16 to indicate that anyone can believe and be saved. Here are some other references that make the same assertion:

Acts 2:21 – “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Romans 10:13 – “For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”

Acts 10:43 – “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”

1 John 5:1 – “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.”

When the Apostle Paul was at Mars Hill in Athens, he encountered some philosophers who delighted in discussing “deep, intellectual topics,” especially matters of religion, so evidenced by their collection of idols to represent every god they could imagine. And to be sure, they had one entitled “To the Unknown God” (Acts 17:23). Paul identified that One as the true God “in whom we live and move and have our being.”

He told them that this God is calling on “all men everywhere” to repent.

So we come to the parable of the wedding feast which a king prepares for his son. It is recorded in Matthew 22:1-14. Many were invited; but when he sent out his servants to call them to come, for the feast was ready, none wanted to come. They ridiculed and scoffed at the servants, even. When the king learned of this, he was furious and then sent his servants out into the highways and byways to invite anyone to come, and so his feast was well-attended. There are several lessons from this parable, but Jesus has this concluding remark in verse 14: “For many are called but few are chosen.”

The questions raised by that statement are, “if God chooses, and election is unconditional and grace is irresistible, why are only “few chosen?”

There is a process God uses, a method, if you will, of how a choice is made from among all those who are called. It is a principle that is identified in Revelation 3:20, which reads, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and [live] with him, and he with Me.” The calling is the knocking, and the choosing is for anyone who answers the knock. Jesus comes to live in that individual. That is, essentially, the “born again” experience.

That principle of selection is made visible in John 1:11-12, where it says, “He came to His own [knocking] and His own did not receive Him, but as many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to be called children of God, even to those who believe on His name.”

The summarization to all of this is, if Jesus did not die for all people everywhere but only for those who believe on Him, then God’s love is conditional, not unconditional. Then, how can His election be unconditional and His grace be irresistible? To believe otherwise is to deny Jesus, the Christ, His true glory that He made salvation for all people and without charge, even though many do not accept that gift from Him.

Since Adam and Eve disobeyed God and died spiritually, first, then physically, they gained the knowledge of good and evil, the fruit of that tree; they also got the responsibility before God to make right choices. And that is how it is—when Jesus knocks on the door, a person has a choice to make.

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